'Affluenza' teen's mother soon to be sent to Texas: sheriff

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2016 2:18 PM

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The mother of a Texas teenager known for an "affluenza" defense in a deadly drunken-driving crash he caused will soon be transferred from detention in Los Angeles to the Fort Worth area, the Tarrant County Sheriff said on Wednesday.

Tonya Couch, 48, has been charged with third-degree felony for helping her son, Ethan, 18, escape to Mexico, a crime that can bring up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.

"It is all in motion," Sheriff Dee Anderson told Reuters.

"We are hoping to get her in by the end of the week," he said, adding he could not offer details about her transfer for security reasons.

Once she returns, she will be held on a bond of $1 million. Ethan Couch is in a Mexican immigration detention facility and fighting his extradition.

The two fled Texas shortly after a video surfaced in early December showing Ethan at an alcohol-laden party, likely in violation of the probation deal reached in juvenile court that kept him out of prison for killing four people with his pickup truck in 2013 when he was 16.

He faces about four months in Texas custody if he is found to have violated the probation deal. Tarrant County prosecutors said they are looking at additional charges that could put him behind bars for longer.

"They have done everything they can to avoid justice, or delay justice. Every road block they can throw up, they are going to. We planned on it," Anderson told Reuters last week.

During his trial, a psychologist testified on Couch's behalf that he was afflicted with "affluenza," meaning he lost the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong after being showered with his family's riches.

The diagnosis is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and was widely ridiculed.

A Mexican court has granted the teenager a stay against deportation that could delay his return by weeks or months, a Mexican migration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tonya Couch did not file paperwork to block her extradition and was flown to Los Angeles from Mexico last week.

Ethan, who has filed paperwork to stay in Mexico, was sentenced in Tarrant County to 10 years of drink- and drug-free probation, which critics saw as leniency because of his family's wealth, which comes from a metal works business.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Hay and Steve Orlofsky)